Guys, I don’t know if it’s a New York thing (what’s cooking?), or a working mom thing (oh so I’m supposed to go grocery shopping after work THEN cook dinner; NOPE * ), or maybe it’s because I (we?) crave a little outing/adventure and I just love being in a social atmosphere for the most part (+ really hate doing dishes)… but we EAT OUT, like A LOT. If you’ve been a reader/follower for some time now, you know that my little fam and I may as well be restaurant critics at this point lol… and one of the most frequently asked questions I get in response to my Instagram stories is “how do you keep Nolan entertained at restaurants ?” (or something to that effect)- so I figured I’d share here what works for him and us, all in one spot that you guys can go back to if needed!
So first off, let me give the *disclaimers*:
Nolan is 2 going on 3 in a few months as I write this post.
No, he is not always well behaved and far from always perfect when out; however, I have to be honest- he just has a chill little personality and really is “good” in restaurants 90% of the time. In regards to the scary 10% though, he usually can be calmed down and refocused within a few minutes.
Lastly, I am by no means an expert!! Just here to share what works for him and us😁
1. We’ve been taking him out to restaurants with us literally since birth- we chose to not follow the “wait till the shots at 8 weeks rule” bc to be honest, I couldn’t go that long without going out for brunch and dinner!!! Also, I’m a big believer in that the world is a dirty, loud, uncomfortable place- the sooner they can adjust, the better! I remember stowing him under the table at many a dark, loud, crowded restaurant in his little car seat carrier- and I really do believe this helped!
2. We don’t let him have our phones for entertainment. Now PLEASE, if you do let your kids use iPads or phones at the table PLEASE DON’T FEEL BAD OR GUILTY!! Not here to judge AT ALL- do what you need to do!! For us though, we didn’t want him to rely on a device that needed charging- bc god forbid the day came when the battery dies and he doesn’t know how to entertain himself- we were more afraid for ourselves to be screwed lol. So please, no judgement- but I will say, bc he never was given it, he doesn’t even know it exists as an option, and seems to have developed pretty good social skills so far in terms of table skills. I will say, not giving him a “device” does mean more work on our part as adults at the table to engage with him, converse with him ( no matter how boring the topic he brings up is🤣 “sooo… let’s talk about CARS AGAIN”)… but it’s worth it to us in the long run.
3. We play lots of verbal/visual games— “EYE SPY”, “Name your favorite _____” (food, color, animal etc and we just go in a circle around the table!), we make up stories, retell old stories, play guessing games (describe an object and he has to guess), and always have each person tell how their day was- old school, but I swear they really work!
4. We bring plenty of table activities (will share links and visuals below!) and try to rotate which ones we bring so that they always feel fresh. We leave a few in each of our cars for cases of impromptu meals out (which happens frequently for us!).
5. Order bread/crackers/chips/whatever the restaurant provides immediately + decide quickly what we’re all having and order when the server comes for the drink order- time is of the essence with a toddler!
6. Lastly, we like to have Nolan be a part of be whole eating out process- a trip to investigate the bathroom, wash our hands and (hopefully) use the potty, greet and talk with the waitstaff or hostess, and give his own order to the server- we feel like making him do most of the things the adults do helps to keep him occupied as well!
Some of Nolan’s favorite table activities:
Shop them here: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9
And before I go, I’m sharing some unedited videos of his current fave restaurant activity- all you need is a roll of dot stickers (can even use reinforcements or those color coded garage sale stickers!) a sheet of paper and a writing utensil! Easier to see visually than for me to describe lol:
Hope this all helps! At the end of the day, practice makes it all better- also “practice” means less dishes to clean also so…💯💯💯